Pay parking is charging ahead.
Tofino last experienced pay parking in 2007 but the council of the day took it away after local complaints.
Feb. 23’s regular meeting was council’s first crack at discussing whether to bring pay parking back after hearing the district’s CAO Bob MacPherson pitch the idea during a Committee of the Whole in January.
MacPherson laid out a plan to put user-pay parking in at Tonquin Park Road and the two lots outside Tofino’s municipal hall in an effort to ease congestion by creating higher vehicle turnover in those two areas.
The rates he suggested were: $1 for two hours, $3 to park until 10 p.m. and a flat rate of $8 for Recreational Vehicles.
Last week, council nixed Tonquin from the plan but forged ahead with the two municipal lots and Coun. Duncan McMaster suggested more areas should be looked at.
“Anywhere that is congested is a candidate for pay parking,” he said. “There’s other areas that have parking problems; I think we need to look at those.”
He argued pay parking should not just be seen as a way to ease congestion but as a revenue generator as well.
“I am a big supporter of trying to come up with other sources of revenue other than just taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“I’m looking at pay parking to raise revenue and I think we can sell it to the public by saying, as we go along, that the revenue from this is going to build a rec. centre or it’s going to liquid waste management,” McMaster said.
He said pay parking should be part of a broader parking management plan that would include improving access to alternative transportation methods and ensuring adequate enforcement.
Coun. Ray Thorogood wasn’t convinced that pay parking should be seen as a revenue generator but he liked the idea of putting it in at the municipal hall’s lots as long as enforcement was part of the plan.
“We have to be able to enforce it,” he said. “If you don’t enforce it then it’s all for naught.”
Coun. Al Anderson questioned whether the district could take on McMaster’s idea of more user-pay lots.
“I’d have to get some more feedback on that. I’m not sure if we’re in a position right now to really assess that and get on with that in a fulsome way with what we have on our plates right now,” he said.
“If we did expand parking outside of those lots in the downtown core, or any of the beach sites, there would be a lot of education that needed to happen and an understanding about that.”
He said any revenue raised from potential parking meters should be put towards Tofino’s parking reserve fund.
“There’s very little funds there to do anything with to improve parking anywhere so whatever revenue is generated from these two lots should go into improving situations for parking,” he said.
He agreed with McMaster that locals would have an easier time accepting parking meters if they knew where the revenue was going.
MacPherson assured that clear messaging about where the money was going would be part of the district’s pay parking strategy.
“What I’ve heard pretty consistently around the table is we really want to make sure that the parking revenue isn’t just money that falls into a hole in the floor,” he said.
Coun. Greg Blanchette said putting pay parking in at the municipal lots would help ease locals into the idea.
“If we start just with these two lots, which not a lot of locals will feel threatened by, then we can start moving it out but I do agree with Coun. McMaster that if we’re going to pursue this beyond just these lots then we need an overall plan,” he said.
“I don’t see it as much of a revenue generator but I would be happy to be convinced otherwise.”
He suggested investing the parking profits into Tofino’s Multiple Use Path (MUP).
“A small amount of revenue could make some significant improvements along a small section of the MUP and you could put up a big sign saying, ‘these improvements come from parking fees,’” he said. “It also meshes nicely with reducing the requirement for parking.”
Baert agreed but strongly urged council to ensure locals receive a legitimate heads up before a parking meter pops up and spoke to the district’s failed attempt to bring in pay-parking 10 years ago.
“I was at the table that did the last, kind of, disastrous entrance of that idea and certainly from my point of view the caveat was always the educational piece especially linked to benefit to the community…and none of that happened,” she said.
“I wasn’t a supporter of pay parking the way it unfolded but if it had to go ahead, which it did because we’d actually hired staff to administrate it before we actually approved the parking—I wasn’t actually on council then, I was just on the committee.”
She also urged council not to see parking as the long-term use of the gravel municipal lot.
“At this point in time that lot is still property intended for development,” she said while acknowledging the district doesn’t have many other downtown parking options.
“We haven’t been proactive necessarily in securing other places that are reasonably within the proximity of downtown…to kind of give us alternatives.”
Both municipal lots are expected to be served by one electronic parking meter operated by Robbins Parking but McMaster wondered whether the district could instead hire someone to collect parking fees.
MacPherson advised a machine was the best route to take.
“I cannot recommend having someone sitting in a booth out there taking money. In the parking industry that’s known as ‘thief in a box,’” MacPherson said. “It creates a very challenging system for us to audit.”
He added Robbins would be responsible for any vandalism done to the meter.
Osborne suggested vandalism would not be a concern.
“With the right education and the amount of general public acceptability I feel is out there for these two lots I would hope that vandalism wouldn’t be an issue,” she said.
Council agreed to direct staff to bring forward the necessary bylaw amendments to put user pay parking in at the municipal hall’s two lots.
The current timeline is to have pay parking in place by May and have it run through to October.